Warning: Spoilers for The Fate of the Furious below.
Actor Paul Walker tragically died during the making of Furious 7. His Fast & Furious co-star, Vin Diesel, has said that Walker inspired much of newest installment, The Fate of the Furious. “Part of Paul’s legacy lives through every frame that we shoot,” Diesel said at CinemaCon in March. “You are reminded of this angel that was so integral to this concept of brotherhood for our millennium. There’s something beautiful about that. There’s something celebratory about that.”
Walker’s character, erstwhile cop and full-time racer Brian O’Conner, is mentioned in the newest film.
The Fast & Furious franchise has never shied away from killing off characters: Sung Kang’s Han, Gal Gadot’s Giselle and (at least temporarily) Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty have all suffered that fate. But the team behind Furious 7 decided to retire Paul Walker’s character rather than kill him within the fiction of Furious 7.
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In that movie, Brian and Jordana Brewster’s Mia are expecting a second child. Brian and Dom discuss the fact that Brian has to escape the high-risk street racing life for the sake of his family. With the arrest of villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the gang calculates that Brian and Mia’s family is now safe, and they can leave the crew.
In The Fate of the Furious, Brian’s absence is felt. The studio seems to have insisted that the franchise insert another good-looking white cop who doesn’t quite play by the rule. Scott Eastwood plays a rookie sidekick to Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). He too lacks a name since his identity is so secret but, like Brian, he can drive and joins the Fast gang on their missions.
As for Brian, the team acknowledges that the character is alive, though we never see or hear from him (or Mia). When Cipher (Charlize Theron) blackmails Dom into working for her, and Dom’s friends are left feeling betrayed and confused, they discuss whether they should contact Brian. “Brian would know what to do,” one of them says wistfully. But Letty rejects the idea, saying that they promised to leave Brian and Mia out of any dangerous activity.
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The only other time Brian is mentioned is at the very end of the film. Dom has found out that he has a son with his ex, Elena, and that both Elena and his baby have been kidnapped by Cipher. Elena reveals to him that she has not yet named the baby‚ and she thinks Dom should think of a name. Cipher kills Elena, but Shaw (who has now turned good after all) saves the child. When the crew is enjoying a celebratory meal (natch) in the final scene, Dom reveals the name he chose for his son: Brian.